Letter to the Editor of the Victoria News, 11 February 2005
Several letter-writers, and columnist Paul Willcocks, have contributed to the misconception that the 1990s were a ‘dark decade’ for BC’s economy. NDP leaders are portrayed as terrible fiscal managers, while Campbell and his cohorts are praised for bringing about an economic miracle. This story has a tenuous connection to reality.
In 2001, the NDP produced a budgetary surplus totaling $1.5 billion dollars. Economic indicators relating to employment and growth were strong. This achievement followed back-to-back budgetary surpluses in the two preceding years. Federal offloading of social spending and declining commodity prices had produced a fiscal crisis earlier in the 1990s that would have confronted any governing party.
When the Campbell Liberals were elected to power in May 2001, they reversed the financial position of the BC government, removing $2-billion from the provincial treasury and plunging the province back into debt. The celebrated tax cut rewarded those individuals and corporations who needed it the least, while punishing working-class people, the disabled, and the poor.
According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the choices made by the Campbell Liberals added more than $3-billion to the provincial debt between 2001 and 2003. The Liberal government may celebrate its surplus now, but we must not forget that it was created at the expense of our social infrastructure and low-income people who are now suffering economically. A short-term boom tied to construction cannot conceal structural imbalances and inequities in the BC economy.
A commitment to social justice and genuine economic progress offers the only long-term solutions to our economic problems. Notwithstanding the rhetoric of Liberal spin doctors, the fact remains that when the NDP was defeated in 2001, BC had budgetary surpluses and strong social programs.